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Q Of The Day: Should I Be Able To Buy A Gun?

It’s no secret at all than I’m bipolar. I’ve talked very plainly about having a mental illness — I came out about it here.

There’s talk that the Arizona shooter might have been mentally ill. Prima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik was quoted about the alleged killer this way:

“There’s reason to believe that this individual may have a mental issue,” Dupnik told reporters today. “I’m not a psychiatrist so I have no reason to believe the person was insane. Was he unstable? I would agree with that.”

The Huffington Post‘s DJ Jaffe — an advocate for the seriously mentally ill — wrote this in his article Gabrielle Giffords, Jared Loughner and Mental Illness:

The shooter of Representative Giffords, Jared Lee Loughner, is likely to be mentally ill.

The hints are in his writings. Like Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber who sent 16 mail bombs in the 1980s and 1990s and wrote a rambling manifesto of incomprehensible philosophy, Jared Lee Loughner also had psychotic fueled rantings. Only reflecting the times, Mr. Loughners ramblings were posted on YouTube rather than mailed. He killed with a gun, rather than parcel post. More like Russell Weston, another mentally ill man who shot and killed two police officers in the Capital in 1998.

Vaughan Bell, in a article entitled Crazy Talk: We’re too quick to use “mental illness” as an explanation for violence:

For many, the investigation will stop there. No need to explore personal motives, out-of-control grievances or distorted political anger. The mere mention of mental illness is explanation enough. This presumed link between psychiatric disorders and violence has become so entrenched in the public consciousness that the entire weight of the medical evidence is unable to shift it. Severe mental illness, on its own, is not an explanation for violence, but don’t expect to hear that from the media in the coming weeks.

Seena Fazel is an Oxford University psychiatrist who has led the most extensive scientific studies to date of the links between violence and two of the most serious psychiatric diagnoses — schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, either of which can lead to delusions, hallucinations, or some other loss of contact with reality. Rather than looking at individual cases, or even single studies, Fazel’s team analyzed all the scientific findings they could find. As a result, they can say with confidence that psychiatric diagnoses tell us next to nothing about someone’s propensity or motive for violence.

So there it is.

We, in weeks to come, are likely to hear arguments for stronger laws towards involuntarily committing mentally ill people before said people engage in violence. We’re also likely going to hear about who, based on a mental illness diagnosis, should or should not be sold a gun due to mental illness. And since schizophrenia and bipolar conditions are considered the two conditions that are most associated with violence, barring people with mental illnesses from owning guns might mean I wouldn’t be able to lawfully buy or own a gun.

Now I don’t own a gun, and it’s not very likely that I’d ever seriously consider buying a gun — I have a number of reasons for not wanting to own a gun and/or keep a gun in my home.

But that said, I was in the Navy. During my career I often stood watch was often issued a pistol for security purposes for the duration of the watch. In the Navy, I shot pistols, shotguns, riffles, and fully automatic weapons. I’ve even fired ship’s 76mm guns and Close-In Weapon System’s 20mm Gatling guns.  

So I’ve handled guns, and I’ve shot guns of all kinds…and I’m mentally ill.

Given the Second Amendment in the United States has been interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court to state the right to bear arms is an individual right for most citizens, the question of the day is this: Should I be legally able to buy a gun? Should I, who hasn’t shown propensitiy for violence — but does have a significant mental illnes that I’m treated for, and is the main reason for why I’m considered disabled — be grouped with those who shouldn’t be lawfully allowed to buy or own guns?

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